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  • TECH

    AI deserves our human paranoia

    Life, James Hein, Published on 14/08/2019

    » For most of my IT career I have seen promises of the "silver bullet" application. The modern iteration of this is the overused promise of Artificial Intelligence. Every man and his dog are jumping onto this marketing bandwagon and Microsoft has been no exception making it part of their database offerings.

  • TECH

    The madness of big data

    Life, James Hein, Published on 31/07/2019

    » 'Data is the new oil." That's what the marketing departments are telling us at least and in particular our senior management.

  • TECH

    Limiting discourse, leaking borders

    Life, James Hein, Published on 19/06/2019

    » It is difficult to ignore the latest moves by social media providers like YouTube to change their terms and conditions so as to block individuals and groups they don't like. The shift from an open platform, where all ideas are welcome, to one more concerned with the window of discourse is disappointing, and points to the huge pressure being applied by a small number of special interest groups, mostly via advertisers. The really sad part of this is that there are already indications that Minds, a supposed open alternative, is already censoring content, so for the moment at least I need to withdraw my recommendation for that platform.

  • TECH

    Diminishing returns

    Life, James Hein, Published on 05/06/2019

    » The first three months of 2019 saw Apple and Samsung collectively selling 17.5 million fewer smartphones globally compared to last year. As I've previously noted, we have market saturation and a lack of yearly upgrades for many users. I upgrade with roughly every third model, for example. The premium end of the market also continues to move out of the reach of many, meaning fewer people can upgrade as often. The innovation jump in successive models is also diminishing, so they lack the wow factor that drove earlier upgrades. These figures do not include the impact of the latest Samsung S10 range which shipped at the end of the quarter. The top three remain Samsung, Huawei and Apple. This may change with the recent US Huawei bans, or at least reduce any growth. Even after price cuts, Apple's sales fell 17.6% in the quarter leaving Samsung as the one least likely to lose their position in the next few months. Oppo and Viva rounded out the top five in sales with Xiaomi nibbling at their heels.

  • TECH

    The borders of security

    Life, James Hein, Published on 22/05/2019

    » It's becoming more common for agents at some borders to demand your device passwords so they can check what you have on them. Given the power of the modern smartphone, partially indicated by the cost of the top-end models, this makes sense, as they are basically mini notebook computers. If you really want to protect your data, keep it elsewhere.

  • TECH

    The internet grows darker

    Life, James Hein, Published on 08/05/2019

    » Social media has reached danger levels of influence and like anything powerful it can be used for positive or negative purposes. In countries like China you can say as many good things about the government on social media as you like but anything negative typically triggers a rapid response. The US and UK has its own sets of problems, with a tug-of-war between liberals and conservatives over the truth, with each side seeking to banish the other from social media. Self-defined open, inclusive and balanced social media platforms like Twitter are removing accounts on one side of politics in countries before elections, effectively meddling in elections.

  • TECH

    Universal sounds, universal sights, universal rights

    Life, James Hein, Published on 24/04/2019

    » Those reading my columns for long enough will know that I play the guitar. I'll never be Eric Clapton but I'm OK. Among the sources I use to improve my technique or break down a difficult lick are the helpful people that post guitar tutorials on YouTube. That could be about to change.

  • TECH

    Human override here to stay

    Life, James Hein, Published on 10/04/2019

    » Computers are useful tools and they will emotionlessly churn through thousands of operations in the blink of an eye to produce whatever results they were programmed to do. Most of the time the results are welcomed. When it comes to malware the results generate a different reaction, and then there are those spaces in the middle. The situation surrounding the Boeing 737 Max MCAS aircraft and the recent crash is an excellent example. The latest analysis would seem to indicate that the computer engineers made some choices that have had unintended consequences. In this case overriding the wishes of the pilots by assuming the plane was crashing, when it wasn't, and not allowing the human pilots to correct the computer's decisions.

  • TECH

    The problem with censoring social media

    Life, James Hein, Published on 27/03/2019

    » In the aftermath of a recent violent event, there are calls to apply greater censorship to commentary on all social-media platforms. Those living in some Asian nations and elsewhere will already be used to the concept of censorship. That does not mean that others should follow this trend but instead should actively resist, as the ability to freely debate and exchange ideas was the original reason the internet was brought into being. The biggest problem with censorship is perspective. Consider two nation states with completely different cultures and perspectives. Which one and who gets to decide what is a valid opinion when the two are so different? This is the danger that now faces a number of Western nations, and apart from the US, where rights are enshrined in the Constitution, there is little protection. If you live in such a nation, let others know that freedom of speech and debate is a much better option than the alternatives.

  • TECH

    Facebook guilty, Huawei continues to claim innocence

    Life, James Hein, Published on 13/03/2019

    » I've been thinking about the new foldable phones. For many years, I have been hoping for a foldable e-book that has, to date, not materialised in a form I'd want to buy. There is something about the traditional book format that is familiar and comfortable. The first releases of foldable phones are aimed at those with lots of spare cash and who want to dip their fingers into the technology. These buyers form a baseline for the manufacturers to build on. I see this as testing the waters and I expect to see Apple jump into the market in the near future, as they have a bucket load of patents for similar technologies.

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